Is your mom or dad at risk for malnutrition?

Is your mom or dad at risk for malnutrition?

Why are older adults more likely to become malnourished?

As many as 38 percent of seniors living at home and up to 67 percent of those living in a nursing home are malnourished or at risk for malnutrition.

For example, if your parent's diet is primarily made up of bread, processed foods and soda, they might become malnourished due to a lack of nutrients — vitamins and minerals — that the body needs to function.

  • Mobility: People who can no longer move easily around their kitchen to prepare meals are likely to become malnourished.
  • Inability to drive: If a senior can't drive, he or she might give up trips to the grocery store for things such as fresh produce, dairy products and proteins — all of which are crucial to nutrition.
  • Loneliness: Cooking for one might feel like too much work or a waste of time.

If your parent's diet lacks the vitamins and minerals found in vegetables, fruits, proteins and whole grains, malnutrition can set in.

Common signs of malnutrition

  • weight loss
  • unusual bruising
  • wounds that won’t heal
  • oral lesions and surface damage to teeth
  • muscle weakness and injury due to falling
  • confusion and decreased mental clarity

Perhaps most serious of all, malnutrition can lead to a weakened immune system. A malnourished person is at greater risk for contracting disease and being ill for longer periods of time.

Ways to promote healthy eating

  • Add some zing. Learn how to use herbs, spices and citrus to add flavor
  • Make it pop. Add color with a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Find healthy snacks for mornings and afternoons
  • Ask a doctor to identify pain that might make it difficult for your mom or dad to eat

Sources: National Institute on Aging Food Planner, Mayo Clinic, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Nestle Nutrition Institute

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